Friday Five – Reading the news, Ron Paul

I think that one of the most important things to do to learn Spanish is to do the things you already enjoy doing in English. The things you DO… willingly. Happily. All the time. Whether they’re “intellectual” or purely guilty pleasures. If you’re a news junkie, read the headlines in Spanish. If you like comic books, get a hold of some in Spanish. If you love rap, try to find some Spanish rap you can get into. You get the picture. If you’re not a big reader, forcing yourself to read a fat tome in Spanish will be torturous and make you feel like you hate Spanish (when what you really hate is reading fat tomes). If you’re not all that into politics in the first place, making yourself read the articles on El País just to get some practice will be total dullsville. And once Spanish becomes boring, you might as well kiss any and all hopes of fluency goodbye. Just do what you already do… in Spanish. I know, I know–you’d think it’d be a no-brainer.

By the way, all those options above are things you can do on your own, perfectly safe from human interaction in the confines of your own home. You will, of course, learn a thousand times faster once you bring other people into the mix. Some people seem to really enjoy the scenery of the long route, though, and that’s okay. In any case, it’s not like you can sew a native speaker to your hip to have at your beck and call at all hours of the day. And non-speaking approaches also have their advantages, of course. Ideally, you’ll have a mix.

Me, lately I’ve been really into reading about the race for the Republican nomination… in English. I’m trying, though, to transition to reading about the candidates and all the madness en español. Since it’s a topic I’m highly interested in and I can learn some more relevant vocabulary at the same time, it works out to be a twofer for me.

Going one candidate at a time and starting with the Iowa frontrunners, here’s the first article in Google Noticias for Ron Paul. (Ronaldo Pablo, for our purposes here)

Well, I was grabbed by the headline. Antibelicista? What a beautiful word! Here are five that I learned from the article.

1. Antibelicistaantiwar

El congresista Ron Paul, aspirante a la candidatura presidencial republicana en EEUU y al que muchos consideran el “padre espiritual” del movimiento derechista Tea Party, es ante todo un ultraliberal convencido y un antibelicista.

You can see the tie from “bel” to bellicose and belligerent–hostile and militant attitudes. Antibelicista is the opposite of hawkish. I suppose a less beautiful but perhaps more common way to say the same would be en contra de la guerra. Also interesting to note that Tea Party is not translated. I know you really want to say Fiesta del Té, though.

2. Renta ≠ rent (income)

Paul, de 76 años y médico de formación, es un purista constitucional, partidario de reducir al mínimo el tamaño del Gobierno y de una política exterior no expansionista, así como de volver al patrón oro, de abolir los impuestos sobre la renta y de la libertad de mercado.

I thought, rent tax? Oops. False cognate (although renta is used a lot in Mexico for “rent”) alert! He wants to abolish the income tax. It seems to be a more formal and technical word for income, which I only knew as ingresos. Impuesto sobre la renta/ Impuesto a la renta = income tax.

3. Defender a ultranza – to fight tooth and nail for something

El Tea Party aboga por la mínima intervención estatal y por la austeridad fiscal, en sintonía con los ultraliberales que defienden a ultranza las libertades individuales y un Estado con pocas competencias que no se entrometa en la vida de los ciudadanos.

Probably a more formal version of pelear con uñas y dientes. (nails and teeth–note the reversal and plurals) Or luchar a brazo partido— thanks, Jim, for reminding me.

4. Eventual ≠ eventual (possible)

Paul es también un declarado antibelicista que votó en el Congreso en contra de la guerra de Irak, y advierte ahora de que una eventual intervención militar en Irán para frenar su programa nuclear sería todo menos beneficiosa para EEUU, en parte por el abultado déficit que arrastra el país.

Another false cognate. I first learned this the hard way via thinking that “eventually” translated as eventualmente. It doesn’t. Eventual means possible. If you read it wrong, you’d think they were saying a military intervention in Iran is something inevitable with the wheels already set in motion (which might be the case, sadly). All they were saying is that it could happen.

5. Caucus = caucus

En los “caucus” de Iowa, que abren el 3 de enero un largo proceso de primarias republicanas, Paul peleará por la victoria con el expresidente de la Cámara de Representantes Newt Gingrich y el exgobernador de Massachusetts Mitt Romney, según las encuestas más recientes.

I almost always see this word left in the original English because there’s no exact translation for it in Spanish. Fortunately, it’s usually unaltered in the plural; el caucus, los caucus. Just imagine trying to pronounce “caucuses” with a Spanish accent!

_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with these words? Had you heard them before? How have you heard them used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 


18 responses to “Friday Five – Reading the news, Ron Paul

  1. Interesting. The idea of doing what you like best, just in the target language is brilliant. I used to read selected articles from “El Pais”, but the amount of new words discouraged me. Well, not really the amount. It was rather the fact that after having highlighted them, I didn’t have any idea how to approach systematic revisions in a non-dull way. Re-reading the whole thing over and over again didn’t seem much fun… So as a result the articles with all the new words and expressions diligently highligted, eventually landed under a plie of waste paper… How do you tackle this issue, by the way?

    As to the words you’ve mentioned. First of all, thanks as usual for bringing all these useful items of vocab to my attention. Secondly, some of these words are false cognates in Polish, too. The one that comes to my mind as the most deceptive (from experience) is “eventual”, as in Polish “eventualny” means exactly the same as the Spanish “eventual”. I often struggled with the English translation, but somehow “possible” never occured to me as an option… Silly me… “Renta”, on the other hand, is Polish for “(disability) pension”. Generally, the words for country-specific realities are hard to translate… Oh, and I remember “caucus” from my classes in legal translation. By the way “fiesta de te” sounds fun :) Have you checked how (and if) “Boston Tea Party” (an event from the colonial times) translates into Spanish?


    • Piotrek, I’ve done the same thing. “A non-dull way” — this is what we’re all looking for as we tried to learn a foreign language! It can be difficult.

      I’m not sure how I do it– let me think about that and get back to you. Of course, I had a great deal of relevant, authentic speaking/listening practice for two years. Also, I have a decent memory. I think I can remember most things I’ve heard/said, but if I just saw it one time and looked it up– forget about it. My brain demands to see the proof of usefulness or words won’t stick.

      I think I’m also good at compartimentalizing words. I have a lot in my passive memory, words I recognize but that I don’t use because I haven’t confirmed that people actually do say them (they’re not literary). There are lots of words in the waiting-to-be-confirmed holding area– it’s a sort of word purgatory ;) Again, though, since I’ve gotten so much practice, there are a lot of words in my active vocabulary. I really do everything I can to learn from *what people say*– from speech, TV, movies, etc. I run on the assumption that most words in literature/journalism are, let’s face it, literary and journalistic and it will just frustrate my efforts to sound normal if I use them as a starting point. I don’t see it as a waste of time, of course, because it’s all useful, but it’s not the most useful thing, in my opinion. Also, you’ll get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of words in the language, whereas the amount that people use in everyday conversations is actually pretty low, revolving around certain key expressions. If you can learn those standard expressions and comebacks and transitions, you’ll do yourself a great service in concocting what to say. If there aren’t Spanish speakers where you live, my strongest advice would be to hook up with speakers via Skype, and I’m sure Lang-8 would be a good place to find some. If you get really desperate, you can always talk to me in Spanish– my accent’s pretty damn good :)

      According to Wikipedia, the Boston Tea Party was the Motín del té. Like, the Tea Mutiny.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! I can die very happy if my Spanish ever gets to the level of your English.


  2. Interesting to encounter “tooth and nail” today. I was just reading an Ecuadorian cuento this morning where some people “Luchaban a brazo partido,” which according various places on the Internet, seems to be an equivalent to “tooth and nail.”


    • That phrase rings a bell for me! Yes. Thank you. Whatcha reading?


      • I found a copy of “Antología básica del cuento ecuatoriano” in a used bookstore. It has proven very interesting thus far. I was expecting more along the line of cuentos para los niños, though. I’m in a little over my head :)


        • Cool. Well, there is often no better way to push yourself to learn quickly than doing something “way over your head”! As long as it’s interesting… If it’s not, find something fun to read. Last year, I read the Spanish version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, one of my favorite books from childhood, and thoroughly loved it all over again. And learned a lot de paso :)


  3. “luchar a brazo partido” umm.. quizás habré escuchado o leido esta frase 2 ó 3 veces en mi vida. Lo que si estoy seguro es que nunca la he pronunciado ni escuchado en la calle.
    “luchar con uñas y dientes” es una frase más común que la anterior, pero hasta donde sé se usa más con el sentido de defenderse de algo o de alguien. Ej. “se defendió con uñas y dientes”.
    Ambas frases forman parte de mi conocimiento pasivo del idioma porque en realidad no las uso. No sé sin son equivalentes. No me parece que lo sean del todo.
    La primera vez que escuché de los “caucus” fue en la anterior campaña presidencial en los Estados Unidos. Hubo mucha cobertura en los noticieros aquí por la participación de Obama.


    • 203 veces en tu vida?? Pero eso es mucho… ah, ya veo ;)

      Gracias! Eso es muy útil para mí. Sí, forma parte de mi conocimiento pasivo también… algo que conozco pero que nunca he dicho o escuchado. Creo que tienes razón– no creo que sean equivalentes del todo, pero relacionados, sí.

      Sí, me obsesiona lo que se dice EN LA CALLE, así que sigue enseñándome más y corrigiéndome si digo algo que te parezca muy rebuscado.


  4. *Antibelicista: Muy útil. Proviene del adjetivo “bélico” (relativo a la guerra). Es común decir “un conflicto bélico”.

    *Impuesto a la renta: Sí, es un término económico. El impuesto nacional y más conocido en Argentina es el IMPUESTO A LAS GANANCIAS.

    *Defender a ultranza: Bastante formal. Tu variante está bien. Otra expresión común (también un tanto formal) es “defender algo fervorosamente”.

    *Eventual: Yo también tenía problemas traduciéndolo. False friend.

    *Caucus: Primera vez que escucho esa palabra.

    Saludos desde Argentina :)


    • Muchas gracias, Daniel!

      “Bellic” también existe en inglés, pero es bastante literario. Jamás la he escuchado decir.

      Sí, las periódicos tienden a usar frases muy pero muy formales “at the sake of” (no sé decirlo– a expensas de?) el deseo de los que están aprendiendo idiomas de aprender vocabulario útil. Pero bueno. Gracias por confirmar que es muy formal.

      Pensándolo bien, me parece que eventual is como “in the event of” en inglés, como si algo pasara…


  5. “A expensas de” significa “a costa de”, por ejemplo: “Él vive a costa de su hermano”. Solo conocía “for the sake of”. No estoy seguro qué significa “at the sake of”…

    Saludos :)


  6. More about doing favourite stuff in the foreign language. I once had this idea that it might have been very stimulating for my language to join a foreign Internet forum. In the recent months I registered on 2 English language fora, and I’ve been searching for an interesting one in Spanish and/or Italian.
    My other thought was to start a blog in English. Lang-8 would be ideal, but few blog entries in English get corrected there, and I’m not quite sure if it would help my English much if I started blogging on a different site, where I couldn’t expect people to correct my mistakes.


    • OK, well now you’re just being coy! For one, I can’t remember the last time I ever saw you write anything in English on Lang-8. And you know that if you had a blog in English, I’d be all over it in a hot minute. I love to correct and edit– just ask the people I do correct on the site.

      Btw, interesting use of “fora.” Very proper, very correct. Most people say forums :)


  7. It’s true that I hardly ever write anything in English on lang8. I can only recall 3 or 4 entries (most of which have remained uncorrected). As to irregular plurals for the words coming from different languages, I guess that the prevailing trend is simply to pluralise them just by adding -(e)s. There are different rules for words depending on a language they come from, but it’s less time consuming to treat them all the same.
    It’s good to know that I could count on you for corrections if I ever decided to start a blog :)


  8. Ron Paul would never be called “ultraliberal” in America, it’s antithetical to the mindset. I mean, while Libertarians are more like liberals in many ways, it just goes without saying that they are Republicans and how can Republicans be liberal…ahaha…me duele el coco. I love how words we take for granted – like Libertarian in this case – are often so culturally contextualized that translating them ends up holding up a mirror to our culture. How many times have I gone in the dictionary to find out how to say this or that word only to be given a word in Spanish that is identical to another I had already associated with a prior English word.

    You tend to latch on. Early on in my Spanish-learning, I discovered my favorite transitions and catch phrases, like “Hay que…” and “Sin embargo”, etc. When you progress and learn that word X in English is “a” in Spanish, but then find out that synonyms “Y” and “Z” are also rendered “a” in Spanish by the RAE and Webster and U. Chicago…well, you end up realizing how much of English – between the “nonetheless”s and “however’s” and “Just the same’s” and “but’s” are really all just the same thing using different parts of your aparato fonador…


  9. Renta is a great example! I always thought it was slang for rent (Mexican and Colombian influence) but it was during an interview with a Chilean company via skype that I realised they use it for salary ( pensaba que fue sueldo) . With my limited Spanish but overwhelming confidence it made for a few interesting minutes of conversation. It is good to see that even experienced linguists get caught out. I have also recently discovered the necessity of the accent when writing “Inglés” :)


    • Thanks for reviving this old post! How interesting that they used renta for salary. Good to know. Ingles…. hahahahaha!!!!! Yes! English or groins– quite a difference, I’d say. Now I am really intrigued to know more about you! Mexico, Colombia, Chile– it doesn’t sound to me like your Spanish is limited at all. And PLEASE don’t call me a linguist– that is really insulting for the people that really are :)


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